Article By Jason Rogers
A Area, Yi Pin Mei Dao, No.60, Gaoxin Road.
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 91 RMB
It’s a tale as old as time. You are ready to go out, see the town, and enjoy the night. Maybe it’s you and a couple friends, and you are polling the room for what to do. Inevitably, you realize that some of you want good drinks, others want good music, and the rest want to club a bit while the night is young. Then, of course, you realize you have to choose 1 of these 3 options, because most places don’t really deliver on all them at the same time. That is until On/Off Bar arrived on the Xi’an scene.
This new bar, that’s only officially been open less than two months, is already revolutionizing Xi’an night life by attempting to give customers the best of both worlds. On/Off goes out of its way to give you exactly what you are looking for in a night out and that seems to have been the mission from the very start.
First let me talk about the bar itself. Nestled in the Gaoxin area, surrounded by office buildings, you can find On/Off tucked around a corner. The bar space is intimate, with no TVs, so mingling is encouraged. The design is sleek and modern, choosing to steer clear of the tired whiskey lounge motif present all over the city. The bar is a fresh take on the Xi’an nightlife. They frequently have DJ’s and hold special events with guest bartenders and fun themes, all while keeping a nice mix of underground hip hop, pop, and other popular music that resonates with the Xi’an youth. To help build on this atmosphere, On/Off Bar has a separate room exclusively for late night clubbing, with a dedicated service bar quickly mixing up simple drinks to keep your buzz going. This bar really does think of everything.
Next up is the drinks. Me being a cocktail lover, the cocktail bar (don’t worry the club area is split by two doors and a wall so no risk of spilling over into the bar) is where I spent most of the night and had a damn good time doing it. We were immediately seated at the bar and shown the large cocktail menu, which beautifully illustrated many classic cocktails with pictures (it is helpful in ordering). They also had a smaller menu with their house specials and snacks, we started out with a couple of these. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was immediately pleased with the care taken in making the drinks. At the same time nobody was wearing a vest and an overcoat, and there was no fine-tuning the ice in my glass for 7 mins. Everything and everyone behind the bar was very relaxed but still professional. My favorites from their house drinks were Mrs. Milkshake; which is exactly like it sounds – a creamy drink just like a strawberry milkshake turned alcoholic and delicious. Next, Treasure Island, a drink that comes with gold leaf and is boozy but balanced so it’s easy to drink. Also, when we arrived we briefly mentioned we were tired from work and were quickly offered espressos without even asking. The drinks were all well made with special house-made ingredients. The manager and head bartender came out and had a drink with us and then went to work behind the bar making cocktails. That’s something I really respect in a bar manager. After starting on my third drink, one of the owners came out to talk to me and explain the bar concept.
The project actually came about because of the COVID situation. Neil (one of the partners) said he and his friends have spent many years working outside of China, in particular Australia and was back home for the holiday when the virus hit. Of course, like the rest of us, they were stuck and needed to find a way to preoccupy their time while back home. That’s when the idea for this bar started brewing. They wanted a place similar to the bars they had seen in the West that were more modern, less stuffy, and expensive. They set out to make a bar with a great vibe and great cocktails that weren’t overpriced or that took an hour to receive. They are trying to bridge the gap between Xian’s club and cocktail world; and, I would say, doing so quite successfully. I was impressed with how diverse the liquor selection was, housing several good ryes and gins.
All the spirits were selected by the bar manager, a top skilled bartender himself, and one of the best in China. They are clearly trying to get away from that, “I’m everything to everyone” vibe most bars have, with their 200 different single malts that mostly collect dust. The owners really want to embody the, “we’ve got you” kind of vibe that I prefer, whether you are feeling On or Off for the night (see what I did there). After we spoke extensively about the Xi’an cocktail scene and the passion the owners had in making this bar, we proceeded to try some crazier drinks including a Quarantine Martini (an original by the bar manager Troy) which had an Vitamin C powder rim and a baijiu cocktail which was one of the best baijiu cocktails I have ever had. All that was followed by lots of crazy shots and a great night.
I could literally keep going on about this bar but I have a word cap so let me sum it up. With its great service, attention to detail, creative cocktails, modular layout for whatever kind of night you want (oh I forgot to mention they have a Pho restaurant next door, for when you need to recharge) and passion for creating something I think Xi’an desperately needs, I’d say this is definitely one of the best bars I’ve been to in recent times. Seriously everybody, go to this bar. You won’t regret it.
Jason Rogers is a mixologist extraordinaire living in Xi’an.